Conditions dictate ASKO SI Endurance Series at Timaru
Conditions dictate ASKO SI Endurance Series at Timaru
Treacherous racing conditions heavily influenced both driver strategy and the eventual outcome of the ASKO Appliances South Island Endurance Series 3 Hour race at Timaru International Motor Raceway at Levels just outside of Timaru on Saturday.
The race finished under safety car with victory going to Rick Armstrong/Matthew Hamilton of Christchurch with Andrew Bagnall (Auckland)/Ant Pedersen (Hamilton) second and Paul Kelly of Christchurch and Melbourne based kiwi Daniel Gaunt third. All three crews drove Porsche 997 GT3’s.
The race began in pouring rain behind the safety car before the field was released to race after several laps. Pedersen worked his way into an early lead and set about establishing a gap to Jono Lester of Auckland who had quickly moved into second place in another GT3. Lester reeled Pedersen in and took charge of the race after twenty minutes.
The first hour saw both the Russell Mortimer/James Marshall Mazda RX7 and the Craig/Scott McDermid Toyota spin on the front straight although both were able to resume. The Angus McFarlane/Michael Bushell Porsche retired after 44 minutes and just before the one hour mark the Paul Rickerby/Graeme Rhodes Mazda RX7 got stuck in the gravel at the end of the back straight, bringing put the safety car for twenty minutes while officials decided whether to continue the race or not.
Racing resumed with a decision to review the race at the 75% mark and teams were informed that the minimum time allowed for a driver to be at the wheel was 45 minutes, a change from the usual 3 hour race minimum driver time of one hour.
This changed team strategies completely, requiring major changes to pit stop schedules.
Into the second hour of the race and the driver changes started coming. Lester handed over to Ellingham at the front and Gaunt took over from Kelly and began a charge. There were several incidents in the tricky conditions with Ellingham and the Arron/Stu Black BMW both spinning on the front straight as did the McDermid Toyota which managed the feat several times.
Through the incidents and pit stops the Armstrong/Hamilton Porsche took the lead with Pedersen/Bagnall second and Gaunt catching up rapidly in third.
A red flag came out after the Porsche of Phil Hood/Tony Richards ended up on the tyre barrier at the end of the back straight after 1 hour 50 minutes and the remaining time to take the race to the 75% distance was held behind the safety car.
That left Armstrong/Hamilton in front from Bagnall/Pedersen and Kelly/Gaunt. Lester and Ellingham of Napier were fourth with Sam MacNeill and Craig Innes fifth in the new Ferrari 458 on debut with Otago pair Alan Dippie and Emma Gilmour sixth in a Porsche 996 GT3.
“It was atrocious, bordering on dangerous,” said Armstrong at the end. “We’ll take the win. It was our lucky day.” Hamilton drove first and the change was made at the 1 hour 30 minute mark. “For us the first stint was about staying in touch with the others, which we did. The conditions were pretty bad. Everyone did a great job of driving in the conditions.”
Pedersen did the first stint in the Bagnall car. “The conditions were atrocious and they made the right call to finish early. There was a lot of water on the track. It didn’t play into our hands so much because I was going to stay out for the maximum and Andrew (Bagnall) was to stay out for the minimum. At the end of the day everyone was in the same boat.”
Gaunt who was hunting down the leaders said, “the conditions weren’t any worse than at the beginning. We were going okay and closing the gap to the leaders but it is disappointing that we couldn’t convert our pace into a result.”
Lester who had led much of the early stages said, “we were victims of circumstance. There was nothing we could do about the combination of safety cars and the accident (Hood/Richards). Everyone was affected and you can’t foresee these things. Everyone struggled today, the conditions were really hairy.”
Armstrong and Hamilton also claimed the GT Class by virtue of their race win while Craig/Scott McDermid took the Class 1 (3501cc & over) honours with an eventual 11th place in their Corolla twin turbo. Arron and Stu Black seized Class 2 (2001-3500cc) with a 7th place finish in their BMW.
Earlier in similar, less than ideal conditions, Jono Lester took a lights’ to flag victory in the final round of the ASKO Appliances One Hour Race Series. Second place was enough to give Paul Kelly of Christchurch the overall series title.
Bradley Dawson of Invercargill was third in his Toyota Trueno with Grant Williams of Christchurch fourth in his Mazda RX7 V8.
“These conditions would be as bad as anything we have experienced in the Carrera Cup,” commented Kelly. “You wouldn’t get them as bad as today. I think in general most guys did pretty well.”
The cars started under safety car, due to the conditions, with no further safety car periods despite many cars slipping off the track. Four cars managed to pirouette along the start - finish straight including Kelly who resumed without losing a place, one of two off course excursions he had during the race.
Race winner Lester echoed Kelly’s comments. “I don’t think I have driven in rain that heavy. You spend a lot of time off the throttle and a lot of time being super careful.”
Tim O’Connor debuted the new Ferrari 458 which replaces his 430 model, bringing it home 9th in the difficult conditions. “It was very tricky and really slippery. There was too much power for me in the wet but the traction control was great. I’ve never driven the 430 in the rain but I have tested it. The 458 is a lot different, more forgiving.”
Lester won the GT Class for the round while Williams took Class 1 (3501cc & over). The Andrew Simms/Chris West Mitsubishi EVO 9 took out Class 2 (2001-3500cc) in 6th overall while Gary Cliff and Hayden Knighton of Christchurch clinched Class 3 (1601-2000cc) as they took their Honda Civic Type R to 11th overall. Dawson snared Class 4 (0-1600cc) with his impressive drive to third place. The BMW E30 Class went to Adam Glass of Rakaia.
The series class honours went to Kelly in the GT Class, Williams and Buist in Class 1, Grant Aitken of Queenstown in Class 2, Garry Cliff in Class 3 and Stu Black in Class 4 while Glass took BMW E30 Series honours.
The Southern RV Under 2 litre Challenge went to Bradley Dawson and the Ladies Driver title went to Alex Melling of Nelson.
While Timaru was the final round of the 1 Hour Series the 3 Hour Series competitors get a chance to regroup before the final round of the Series, at Powerbuilt Ruapuna at the V8 SuperTourer enduro meeting on Saturday 24th November.
The overall 3 Hour Series champion will be awarded the ‘South Canterbury Toyota Cup’, plus the Club has been donated an original watercolour painting by High Country artist Norman Sinclair valued at approx. $10,000-00 and a set of Michelin tyres that will both be given away as spot prizes to competitors in the series. Thanks to series sponsors Southern Finance, Paul Kelly Motor Company, Allied Lubricants, Hagley Aluminium and of course ASKO Appliances, the Series will have the richest prize money pool in NZ Motorsport, with $30,000- that will be paid out as prize money for the season. With $10,000- up for grabs for the overall 3 Hour Series winner, the balance will be paid out based on class points across both the 3 Hour and 1 Hour Series, ensuring that prizemoney is spread right through the field.